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Natures Natural Colours

The Wool season is now in full swing at Jamieson & Smith, a recent spell of fine weather has meant that wool producers have had a dry early start for clipping.

a Shetland crofter clipping his sheep. Photo by Oliver Henry

a Shetland crofter clipping his sheep. Photo by Oliver Henry

As the wool store fills up, grading the clips is under way and our first shipment left us last week on its way down to our parent company Curtis Wool direct, to be processed and spun into our yarns.

the woolstore last week

the woolstore last week

While Derek and Jan who work full time in the woolstore and Robert, who has joined us for the summer season, get to work on the white fleeces Oliver has been in what we call the Middle Store sorting some of the coloured fleeces.

Oliver in the middle store

Oliver in the middle store

Since Oliver has been to see some of the coloured sheep on their home turf  recently we thought you might like to see some of his photos and hear a bit more about the coloured Shetland Sheep.


Jim Lindsays Coloured Sheep, photo by Oliver


some of the Robertson family’s coloured Sheep, photo by Oliver


Two Flecket sheep, photo by Oliver

 Shetland Sheep can have a huge variety of colours and markings, in the past the natural colours were used for all types of knitting and for blending in Fair Isle. When man made fibres became widely available and the market for wool declined coloured sheep became a lot less desirable and crofters began to move solely into the white fleeced sheep which they knew the fleeces would be sold. At one point people were just throwing away the coloured fleeces as it wasn’t worth taking them to be sold.


Jan’s Dad Alistair clipping, photo by Oliver

Thankfully now there is a good market for the coloured sheep, and some Shetlanders are actively trying to revive the strength of the different shades.  There are 11 main Shades with over 30 different markings currently recognised.

Keiva clipping a moorit sheep

Jan’s neice Keiva clipping a moorit sheep, photo by Oliver

Oliver went to see Jan and her family doing some of their clipping last week, and Jan’s niece’s were showing their clipping skills.

Jan's nieces Keiva and Arianna with Sally the dog and some coloured Shetland fleeces

Jan’s nieces Keiva and Arianna with Sally the dog and some coloured Shetland fleeces, photo by Oliver


some of the coloured fleeces in the Middle Store

Once the coloured ‘oo has been dropped off to us it is then hand graded and hand sorted into its various shades and qualities.

Oliver hand grading a black fleece

Oliver hand grading a black fleece


the different marks and colours can mean a difference in the fineness of the fleece

 As the quality of different shades can vary within the fleece, (Shetland black can be coarser than other shades, and dark grey is very course) each fleece is handled and dissected by Oliver and separated into grades.



Thanks to  Kate Davies designs like the Rams and Yowes blanket, Sheepheid and Sheep Carousel  which all use the 2ply Supreme Jumper Weight the popularity for the natural colours is still going strong.

wool and fleece

The natural colours go into all our undyed yarns like Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight, which comes in 9 shades

Moorit 2ply Supreme Lace Weight

Moorit 2ply Supreme Lace Weight


And all the Shetland Supreme Lace weight  available in 5 shades as well as the Combed Tops and finished products like the Woven Blankets and Cushions and Jumpers. So we need as much as we can get!


A Moorit Ram and Sheepdog having a stand off, photo by Oliver

Having a wide range of products made from the natural colours ensures there is a steady demand for this type of wool, meaning we can secure the future of the coloured wool.

Happy Knitting!


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a lovely piece, with great photos. So heartening to see skills being passed on. Please save a couple of fleeces for the spinning classes I will be teaching at J&S during Shetland Wool Week-I can’t wait to get my hands on them!

    July 18, 2014
  2. the colored fleeces and yarns are my favorite–great post!!

    July 18, 2014
  3. donna #

    enjoyed this very informative post, want all colours!

    July 18, 2014
  4. Elaine #

    Thanks so much for your wonderful pictures and commentary!! The colored Shetlands are definitely my favorites.

    July 19, 2014
  5. Crofting and shepherding is a family way of life in Shetland. Seeing the youngsters help with the shearing under the watchful eye of their father shows what a wonderful heritage wool has. The sheep are almost a part of the crofter`s family and provide a significant part of their income.
    We have worked tirelessly to make people aware of the benefits of Real Shetland wool; we have promoted the stunning natural colours as well as the wonderful white fleeces and with increased prices for their wool we have given a lot back to the Shetland crofters.
    Many thanks for all those who support our efforts.
    We hope the powers that be will stop the fraudsters for calling their products Shetland wool when it has never seen the Shetland Islands… the 3 Sheep logo, it guarantees absolute authenticity!

    July 20, 2014
  6. Reblogged this on Carol's Creative Workshops and commented:
    Interesting blog, with great pictures, about the range of different coloured fleece on Shetland sheep, by jamieson & Smith the original Shetland wool brokers. Still going strong in Lerwick where I visited them last year.

    July 21, 2014
  7. I really enjoyed this post and loved the pictures. I visited you last year whilst staying in Lerwick with some of my knitting group and we all bought lots of lovely wool. We also collected lots of stray bits of fleece while out walking on St Ninian’s Isle, which our youngest member (21) thought she might use, so that she could practise spinning on her mum’s wheel. I don’t think she’s got round to it yet, but the big bag of fleece is ready & waiting!
    A neighbour of mine has a friend who keeps ‘Shetland’ sheep on her farm in Cornwall. She brings me the odd fleece when visiting London, where I live, and I wash it and use it for feltmaking and needlefelting. The varied colours, from off white through to darkish brown, are really useful when needlefelting thrushes and sparrows! Thank you for enabling me to learn so much more about the variety of fleece on Shetland sheep.

    July 21, 2014
  8. I was at Shetland Wool Week last month, it was wonderful seeing all the fleeces stored in your shed. I bought lots of lace weight in natural colours.

    November 12, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Nature’s Natural Colours | Wovember
  2. Yarn Series – Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight | Jamieson & Smith
  3. winter jobs | Jamieson & Smith

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